Christians should keep Scripture out of politics
Christ Jesus wasn't crucified to make society fairer.
What is Christianity's proper role in American presidential politics? This question has gripped the 2008 campaign. From the dispute over the acceptability of Mitt Romney's Mormonism, to Mike Huckabee's musings about conforming the US Constitution more to the Bible and the controversy over Sen. Barack Obama's former pastor, the spiritual and secular realms have collided fiercely. Just this week, Senator Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton fielded questions from US religious leaders at a special forum broadcast on CNN.Skip to next paragraph
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More broadly, arguments over public policies – from war to illegal immigration – are increasingly being infused with scriptural justifications.
The media, of course, relish such controversy. So do many religious leaders, who use the occasion to offer the "real" interpretation of what Scripture says about a particular issue. As a result, religion and politics aren't just mingling – they're being wedded to the same goal: redeeming America's body politic.
A largely Protestant nation that can trace its theological taproot to Martin Luther ought to know better. As the original Reformer, Luther understood how critical it was to separate church and state and, in a more important sense, the spiritual kingdom of Christ and the secular realm where God reigns in a hidden way through humans using reason as a guide.
That is not to say that Christians today shouldn't let their Christianity inform their political values and action. They should. But the Bible is not a political playbook. Christians, or adherents of any religion for that matter, should refrain from using holy text to fight politically over human concerns. Using Christian doctrine to push a political agenda is not just rude – it is a dangerous departure from the core message of Christianity: salvation by grace through faith.
Christ Jesus was not crucified to make society nicer or fairer; no, he suffered to redeem the believer from sin.
Did not Christ tell Pontius Pilate: "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36)? Which of these seven words is so hard to understand?
Yet the clarity of Christ's statement hasn't stopped mankind from trying to bring heaven to earth ever since – mostly through political tyrannies of the collectivist utopian variety.
Luther understood these temptations. "The devil never stops cooking and brewing these two kingdoms together," he wrote, referring to the spiritual and the secular realms. With these words in mind, Lutherans – or at least Lutherans strongly committed to the confessional writings of their church – shake their heads over the misuse of Scripture in American politics on both sides of the political divide.
How, then, should Christians engage in political affairs? Through the language of reason in the framework of natural law.
Citing Paul, Luther reminded Christians that natural law is "written with the finger of God" on people's hearts, a fact to which their conscience "bears witness." Thus, Christians who want to publicly oppose the practice of abortion and same-sex marriage do not need to quote the Bible to do so. Instead, they can appeal to logic and universal principles that exist, not by man's decree, but by, as the Declaration of Independence puts it, "the Laws of Nature and Nature's God."